The Data Deployment Blind Spot

By Andy Willett, Senior Vice President, NetMotion Wireless — April 29, 2013

Everyone knows that you can’t manage what you can’t see. For enterprise networking professionals, this means tapping into a large portfolio of products and services that provide visibility into how the networks and applications that their companies rely upon are performing. 

 
But cellular —or mobile broadband networks — are an exception. While mobile field workers in many organizations rely on public cellular connections every day to access mission-critical applications, how these networks are performing is a huge blind spot for IT departments.
 
The result is frustrated employees in the field, poorly served customers and business processes that don’t work as intended, putting an enterprise’s large investment in mobility at risk.
 
Rysavy Research and NetMotion Wireless recently polled more than 400 networking professionals from a variety of industries to find out what problems they grapple with most when it comes to managing a cellular mobile deployment. Here’s what they had to say.
 
Improving connection reliability was the primary challenge, cited three times more often than other requirements, including security and cost control. In today’s environment, without a reliable, high performing connection, field workers can’t do their jobs.
 
Respondents also cited a lack of tools to help troubleshoot connectivity problems, such as slow data transfers. In fact, more than half of the respondents reported they have no tools for troubleshooting cellular connections at all.
 
Some respondents said they rely mostly on talking with the end user, (“How many bars do you see now?”) or calling their carrier’s help desk. In short, they rely on anecdotal information, and lack any kind of analytical data or tools that will lead to improvements in connection quality.
 
Carrier Choice
A large number of respondents said they find the process of selecting a cellular carrier to be challenging, largely because they weren’t sure which carriers delivered the best coverage for their area. The generic coverage maps provided by operators are not enough to make a decision; they don’t reflect a business’ unique mobile deployment profile, nor are they particularly granular.
 
Forty percent of respondents admitted it was difficult to track mobile inventory. This group complained about the time that manual methods, like an Excel spreadsheet, take and the lack of automated inventory tools. One-third report the problem is a lack of visibility into either the use of the modem, or the identity of the modem’s user.
 
Nearly one-half admitted they had no systematic method for gathering data on their cellular deployments. So when asked about their ability to measure certain aspects of cellular data use, including 2G/3G/4G usage, disconnection rates, application use and coverage trouble areas/dead zones, it wasn’t surprising that very few indicated they could measure any one of them. In fact, nearly one-half said they could not measure a single factor.
 
These findings confirm that enterprises need the ability to gather real-world performance information. This is the only way they will be able to systematically measure, troubleshoot and optimize connectivity in the field, and ensure they are getting the most out of their mobile investments.
 
“Organizations need management tools for these cellular networks and the devices used by employees to increase the success of their data deployments,” said Peter Rysavy, President, Rysavy Research. “Without them, they’re driving blind and can’t tackle the typical problems that occur. What’s needed is ongoing, all-encompassing visibility; that’s what it will take for a business to improve their return on investment.”
 
With the right solutions, businesses will be able reduce IT support demands and extend technology and service contract investments, all while increasing employee productivity. To get started, enterprises need to ensure their mobility management strategies include the following capabilities:
  • Detailed visibility into network signal quality and technology that is being delivered to field users
  • Reports that highlight adapters that are performing poorly
  • A granular view into what applications and processes are consuming bandwidth
  • Tools that enable action to fix connectivity issues centrally 
These capabilities provide the foundation from which enterprises can understand definitively how well their mobile deployment is working, and ensure their mobile workers are always getting the best connectivity possible.  

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